Like theater productions in the past, W;t started out with auditions in the JR Theatre and read-thrus in the Shaw Center Conference Room. W;t tells the story of a fifty-year-old woman as she struggles with a rough cancer diagnosis: stage four metastatic ovarian cancer.
Vivian Bearing, played by guest actress Jody Hovland, agrees to participate in eight rounds of chemotherapy that’s normally geared towards stage three ovarian cancer to see if there’s any chance of it helping her. Her going through these treatments also help the researchers in their understanding of chemotherapy on stage four ovarian cancer.
In the beginning of rehearsals, the company read through the script a few times before starting the blocking process in the JR Theatre. Before they moved into action, director Dr. Gary Heisserer asked both Dr. Mary Shawgo and Dr. Catherine Clifford to come and talk to the company about cancer cells and John Donne’s metaphysical poetry, respectively. Vivian Bearing is a professor of seventeenth-century poetry, and she focuses on the Holy Sonnets of John Donne in her work, and both his poetry and the lyricism of cancer shine throughout the play.
Along with Jody Hovland, three Graceland faculty members guest star in the company. Dr. David Devonis (Professor of Psychology), Tracy Salter (Associate Professor of Theatre), and Dr. Brian White (Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences) appear along with a large cast of students. Derek Burton (’17) plays clinical fellow Jason Posner, and Celeste Sterling (’18) plays Susie Monahan, Vivian’s primary nurse.
Heisserer, director, decided on a large ensemble for W;t because he wanted to layer the different personalities throughout the script instead of the audience seeing the same familiar faces again and again in different situations. With a large ensemble, the audience gets the chance to see the actors working with new people each time they’re on stage.
The ensemble includes seniors Kyle DePriest and Katherine Gardner; juniors Keishawna Bailey, Jileannette Figueroa Rivera, Maceson Spencer; sophomores Amina Amirkhanli, Allie Weston; and freshmen Chris Potter, Nathalie Varli, and Jayne Welch.
Opening Night for W;t is February 16th at 7:30 PM in the Shaw Center’s JR Theatre. The following evening shows are on Friday, Feb. 17 and Saturday, Feb 18 at the same time, and there will be a 2 PM matinee on Sunday, Feb. 19. Box Office opens Thursday, February 2nd. Tickets are $5, and student tickets are $1. The box office is open from 9am-12pm and 1pm-4pm Monday through Friday.
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